According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than 400,000 traffic accidents occurred on Florida’s roads and highways in 2018 alone, resulting in approximately 254,000 injuries and over 3,000 fatalities.
Florida is a no-fault state according to Florida Statute 627.7407, and this means that when you have suffered an injury as a result of a car accident, your mandatory no-fault coverage will automatically reimburse you for damages, regardless of who caused the accident.
Unfortunately, the damage and injuries resulting from many car accidents far exceed the limits of this coverage, which means that accident injury victims are forced to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, which can result in a settlement or a trial.
The steps you take after a severe car accident, especially when it wasn’t your fault, play a large role in whether or not you will prevail in your accident injury claim.
At the Law Place, our attorneys can assist you by firstly outlining the things you should ideally do after a car accident that wasn’t your fault. It is important that you are equipped enough to do as much as you can to maximize the chances of a positive outcome on your car accident claim.
To discuss your case, contact The Law Place today on (941) 444-4444 for a free consultation.
Speak to a Lawyer Before Speaking With an Insurance Company
Not knowing what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault is normal. It is difficult to know who to trust and who to speak to after a traumatic collision. But you should always remember to avoid speaking with a car insurance company prior to consulting with a lawyer.
It is important to trust law enforcement to do their job. You should answer any questions they may ask you about the crash, no matter who was at fault. However, you should not speak with insurance company representatives, especially those who represent the other driver. They may sound friendly and offer you a tempting settlement offer but don’t trust it.
Insurance company representatives will always aim to protect the company’s best interest, not yours. Victims are often persuaded into accepting settlement offers because they want the stress to go away, and may have medical bills that they want to cover quickly. But by accepting the initial settlement, it is highly likely that you are settling for less than you deserve.
An adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company will thoroughly investigate your car accident claim to avoid paying a large sum of money that may be owed to you. If you file a lawsuit, the defense’s legal team may hire an investigator. They will listen carefully to everything and anything you say and use your comments against you to deny or devalue your claim. This is why you should never speak with an insurance company before speaking with a lawyer as your lawyer will be able to tell you what you should and shouldn’t say.
For a free legal consultation, call 941-444-4444
Seek Medical Treatment as Soon as Possible
When a serious accident occurs, it’s likely that emergency services will arrive at the scene of the accident. Drivers and passengers who are unconscious or have suffered immobilizing injuries will be treated at the scene and transferred to the nearest hospital straight away. Those who are lucky enough to walk away from an accident sometimes assume they don’t need to be checked out by a doctor. They assume that any bumps, bruises, and body aches are just minor injuries and fail to seek medical attention. This is a mistake for the following reasons:
- You need to put your health and safety first – Just because you cannot visibly detect an injury does not mean you haven’t suffered one. Car accidents are a traumatic event that often induces an adrenaline rush in the human body. Adrenaline masks pain, so some accident injury victims might not feel the full impact of the crash for hours or even days after it occurs. It’s in your best interest to let a physician examine you for common car accident injuries.
- It may affect your insurance claim – When you file an insurance claim or take legal action against the at-fault driver, the insurance company and legal defense teams will aggressively try to attack your claims and may argue that the car accident did not lead to your injuries. Medical documentation of your injuries serves as valuable evidence for insurance companies and the court. Your medical records also provide leverage for your attorney to negotiate a better settlement or ask for more damages in a lawsuit. When an accident you have been involved in isn’t your fault, it isn’t fair that you should be out of pocket due to lost wages, medical expenses, or for your pain and suffering.
Gather Witness Contact Information
Local police or the Florida Highway Patrol will gather relevant information for an accident report when they arrive at the scene of a car accident. Yet, it’s in your best interest to gather information yourself, if you are physically able.
Try to keep your emotions in check. Speak with the other driver and record their name, address, phone, email, insurance information, vehicle identification number, make and model, and license plate. You should also try to get contact information from any eyewitnesses who stopped at the scene. Make sure you avoid discussing the specifics of the accident and how it occurred. Anything you say might get back to the at-fault driver’s car insurance company and come back to haunt you later.
Take Photos of the Car Accident Scene
Road crews arrive to clean the scene of an accident fairly soon after it has occurred, and some valuable evidence will be lost in the process. You can preserve this evidence by using your cell phone, provided it made it through the car accident unscathed, to take video and/or pictures after the accident. Insurance companies and courts prefer photo evidence because it is more reliable than law enforcement’s interpretation of how a car accident occurred. Your attorney, the defense attorney, and the associated insurance company can use these photos to determine liability, which is especially important when the accident wasn’t your fault.
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Ask for a Copy of the Incident Report
A final police report will be submitted to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). You will likely have to wait a week or two before the officer has finished reporting the accident and uploads it to the FLHSMV system. You can order a copy online through FLHSMV. This police report will be vital, so make sure that you obtain this for your records.
File an Insurance Claim Under Your Florida PIP Policy
Florida Statute 627.736 requires those who register a vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 each in property damage liability and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to comply with the state’s no-fault insurance laws. Regardless of the severity of your accident and injuries, you will be reimbursed for some of your economic damages through your PIP car insurance carrier.
Victims will often meet or exceed their PIP policy limits and are forced to look elsewhere to recover the full amount of damages. The best course of action is to contact a car accident attorney to help you file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, and perhaps a personal injury lawsuit when an insurance settlement is not an option.
Retain All Receipts, Bills, and Payroll Information
If you cannot prove your losses, you won’t be able to claim for them. This includes bills for ambulance and emergency services, doctor’s visits, hospitalization, surgery, and medication, as well as gas receipts for travel to and from the hospital or clinic for treatment or follow-up care. If you are involved in a car accident that isn’t your fault, make sure you keep every bill and receipt related to your accident and injury to provide documentation of your losses. You also must provide your attorney with your salary information in the form of pay stubs. Your income before your injuries will help determine your lost and future income, as well as any paid time off you had to use as a consequence of injury.
Document Your Injuries in Journal
Some losses are not easy to quantify. If or when you can physically do so, you should take the time to fill in a daily journal describing your symptoms and recovery process. This can provide insight into how your recovery is progressing from a mental and emotional standpoint.
The details of your journal can give your doctor information about your symptoms, making it easier for them to treat all of your injuries or conditions. When a severe car accident causes visible injuries, you can also enter photos into your journal to document your recovery progress. Your attorney can use the information to place a more accurate value on your insurance claim. A car insurance company will take advantage of any weaknesses in your case and will reject any claims that are not properly documented.
Contact a Skilled Car Accident Attorney Straight Away
After being involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you will almost always benefit from consulting with a personal injury attorney. An experienced lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your car accident to uncover facts to support your case and give you the best chance of recovering damages. Additionally, your attorney can gather relevant documents, interview witnesses, and handle the paperwork and other minutia related to your car accident claim.
A skilled lawyer will handle communication with the car insurance companies involved in the claim or lawsuit. This can protect you from inadvertently saying anything that might hurt your case. Qualified lawyers are also trained negotiators, so if an insurance company offers you a quick settlement, they know how to negotiate to get the best payout possible in your particular case. Severe car accident injuries require weeks, months, or longer for recovery. If you hire a lawyer, you can focus on healing while your attorney advocates for your rights and fights to get you the compensation you deserve.
Having an experienced lawyer from The Law Place on your side throughout this time of uncertainty can give you the peace-of-mind you need. Contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible is vital. Florida statute of limitations requires that legal action occurs within a specific time frame.
The Law Place
At The Law Place, our accident attorneys have the experience to guide you through the process and handle all the complexities of your unique situation. Many of the attorneys at our Florida based law firm have an AVVO 10.0 rating, which is the highest possible rating coming from a variety of sources, including trial skills and client reviews. Our team is diverse and incredibly skilled. Contact The Law Place today on (941) 444-4444 for a free consultation.